December 2, 2008

A Solution for Canadian Parliament: Acknowledge The Long Tail

By admin

For those of you who don’t understand the Long Tail , check out what the concept’s creator, Steve Anderson, has to say about it .

Generally, the idea is this:  we live in a world of fragmentation and being ‘number one’ is no longer as important as representing all opportunities in the economic (or social or political) spectrum.

There’s really nothing new to the idea:  imagine a rainbow that’s all white.  Apply a prism and you get the full range of perspective on things.

Canadian politics have evolved to become very much like the Long Tail.  We have a ‘number one’ party (the Conservatives), although they represent just a little more than 30% of the popular vote.  3 out of every 10 Canadians that voted in the last election don’t want Harper as our leader. They think he’s just a step away from Jim Jones and he’s not the person that should be representing the voice of all Canadians, despite the fact that the Conservatives believe this is what happened October 14, 2008.

Following out last election, nearly 70% of the voices of Canadians were scattered across a disparate range of views.  You might be called a separatist, a moderate, a ‘socialist’ (although I think calling Jack Layton a socialist is as dangerous as calling Obama a socialist.  Not quite, but kind of) or you may be called a whole bunch of people that get get classified as ‘other’.  Regardless of what colour you are on the spectrum, you get white and you don’t get a voice in the House of Parliament in Canada.

This is unfortunate.  Seven out of every ten Canadians are being shut out of the decision making process and I think it’s safe to say that a coalition represents the first effort in acknowledging the future of politics in Canada.  Unfortunately, it will be lead by someone who has already quit the job.

No wonder voter turnout is reaching up to touch bottom.  It’s disgusting and it’s depressing.

A solution you ask?  I think we all already know what I’m going to offer:  Proportional Representation or PR.

By understanding the point of the Long Tail – there is much profit to made in acknowledging the opportunities of the majority of activity – we can address the future that politics in Canada MUST take.

PR represents the Long Tail of politics in its purest form.  Voices get heard, voting counts and the true diversity of Canada is reflected in our main political and legislative body.

The challenge now is finding a way to introduce PR.  The Conservatives are seen to be power-hungry and few in Canada could conceive that they should be the ones to introduce such a bill.  The Liberals plus NDP:  not enough votes.  The Bloc:  no national mandate and PR would drastically reduce their number of seats.

But again, I have the answer (thank you for asking):  the Conservatives should introduce a bill declaring that PR will be on the next election ticket , regardless of who calls for the dissolution of Parliament.  There could be other requirements, including fixed election dates (that everybody abides by) and an expanded communication effort to ensure that all Canadians understand the benefits of PR.  Another idea might be to include a separate vote for who the leader should be versus who should make up the Parliamentary mix for that person to lead.

However, do not over-complicate the core mandate, like the governments of Ontario or BC have in the past .  Make it a simple yes/no question.  Make it contigent on the majority (50%) of Canadians accepting it.  Bring it to law.  Make it law.

The evolution of Canadian parliament would be quite exciting in a post-PR world. To appreciate what PR might look like, look at your family, a corporation or Not-for-profit organization.  We surround ourselves with well-educated and well-meaning people that may disagree offline, but who agree when it counts.  They push things forward, find ways to make concessions and negotiate for the best interest of that organization among thousands of other organizations.

We make progress.

Also, the reality is that the Conservatives have little choice.  Proroguing the government is not an option.  Chaos will ensue and the people of Canada will never forgive the Conservatives for eliminating the right of Parliamentarians to rule just when we need leadership most.  Proroguing the government would spell the end of the Conservatives in Canada, as they will be seen as demagogues and polyannas wanting to maintain a grip on power – at any cost.  Reformers, Alliance members and all of the other splinter right-wing groups would fragment and disappear into oblivion because they’ll be out for blood and Steve will look like a fat zebra on a Savannah packed with lions.

So the solution must be presented by the Conservatives.

By acknowledging that the Canadian ‘first part the post’ system fails the majority of Canadians and ties the hands of Canadian politicians, the Conservatives would set an unprecedented level of expectation and distinguish themselves from the bickering that’s taking place today.

It would be the ONE opportunity for the Conservatives to redeem themselves and could very well earn them a majority (something that’s still possible with PR), as many Canadians would see them as taking the high road through all of the nonsense that our leaders seem desparate to perpetuate.

The biggest losers would be the Bloc, but the reality is that they should be.  The people of Quebec have a right to be at the table, but no more than those of Alberta, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, PEI, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, the NWT or the Yukon.  If the people of Quebec disagree, the risk is a Constitutional Crisis, but I think we’re heading that way already.

Of course, the onus is on Stephen Harper to broker a deal that makes Quebeckers feel a part of Canada without surrendering their unique status.  As he does so, his stock will gain and he’ll make an accomplishment that he can be proud of because it will preserve This Nation.

The Long Tail of politics isn’t about winners and losers.  It’s about understanding our differences, finding peace with your neighbours and making our country a better place.

Go, Steve, go.